Emotions, Hormones, and Metabolism

The title of today’s post makes me think that listening to Billy Squier’s “Emotions in Motion” album would be a good way to set the scene for this topic. I’ve been having some great interactions with members of our community and the subject of emotions, hormones, and metabolism has been getting some attention.

Today’s discussion is a brief exploration of the relationship between moods and results. It is equal parts obvious and intriguing. Several of my 1-on-1 coaching clients have recently embraced the concept of personalized fitness testing. We’re setting up a number of challenges based on key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are meaningful to each person. The Training Tribe (and other nationwide team members) are sending me their pretest data from the 2023 Summer Fitness Challenge. And Fit for the Field participants have been commenting that they both love and loathe their weekly Bonus Challenges in the programming. Good stuff and thank you all for the inspiration and education you provide me. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have input or questions. Literally, I’m always here.

I couldn’t wait to get the time to sit down and pen this piece. Putting fingers to keyboard and letting the cognitive outflow pour on this topic was a big goal for the week. While there certainly is research – in sports, business, and psychology – to support the following statement…I’m going to speak (or write) entirely from my experience. Here’s my observation: Your emotions drive your hormonal balance and this has a regulatory effect on your metabolic function. Or to put it more simply…moods affect results. And this is almost universally true across health, fitness, sports, business, relationships, and LIFE.

There’s the no-brainer Captain Obvious part of that. You are probably saying “Well, duh!” and you should be. We all know this. But I find it super interesting how often I have to remind myself and clients just how powerful the mindset can be. A graphic is indicated here. 

This relationship is a feed-forward and feedback loop. It’s a two-way street that has traffic busily running on it all the time. Our emotional milieu affects our hormonal stew which in turn impacts our metabolic function. How we are biologically operating stimulates hormones that facilitate our feelings.

I’ve been profoundly impressed by the way in which a person makes no progress with health, fitness, or performance when they are plagued with negative emotions. And conversely, how extremely positive emotions can make even suboptimal training, sleep and nutrition relatively effective. 

Positive emotions can make up a long list but here’s a few. Feeling adventurous, confident, safe, or happy has neurotypical links in this chain. An adventurous attitude generally associates with greater dopamine production. We seek novelty, challenge, and excitement. Confidence ties in with norepinephrine and this leads to a results-driven success orientation. Safety (or a relative sense of calmness and security) elevates serotonin levels and diminishes cortisol. And happiness (love, fellowship, belonging) increases oxytocin.

All of those things in turn have a significant influence on our daily stress levels and overall cortisol (the major stress hormone) balance. We are designed to have a morning boost of cortisol to get us going, and then to have a few quick spikes through the day when we work out or compete, or deal with a calamitous issue. This is often referred to as periodic spiking of the sympathetic (fight, flight, excite) portion of the autonomic nervous system. But we are programmed to return to and maintain a parasympathetic (rest, digest, repose) baseline most of the time. 

Those positive emotions set off a cascade of neurotransmitter and hormone regulation that affects practically every metabolic function in the body. Testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone, aldosterone, anti-diuretic hormone, melatonin, and many other signaling molecules are optimized. Inflammation is managed effectively. Tissues are repaired and developed. Immunity improves. People in this optimized state look, feel, perform, and recover better than those plagued by negative emotions and chronically elevated sympathetic states. 

I’ve previously talked a lot about The Lifetime Athlete 5-3-1 System and how that builds a foundation of the 5 Components of Lifelong Health (food, movement, sleep, ergonomics, and awareness). Get people healthy first. Then, and only then, we add the 3 Essential Elements of Peak Performance (training, recovery, and mindset). This health-first model supports mental health all the way because that’s the emotional stability we all deserve. In the Awareness section, we give some attention to how our lifestyle can support good emotional health. And then we refine that focus further when we get to Mindset. These are keys to that performance/longevity status we are targeting. 

So, if you are trying to have a fitness or performance breakthrough, or drop a few pounds – and you are just not making the gains you are seeking – ask yourself (in a kind way) how you are thinking and reacting in your journey. I’m not here to say exactly what to do (because every person and case is unique) and I’m certainly not passing any judgment…I’m just saying success starts with those emotions. 

This is where coaching comes into the picture. Everyone should coach themselves (first) and to some extent. The conversations you have with yourself need to be positive and encouraging. I’m not saying that is easy. Then it’s good to have a coach that’s not yourself. Someone (whatever their title…confidant, performance coach, counselor, etc.) who can help you to objectify, rationalize, and frame situations so that you feel good about yourself and what’s going on. Doing this unlocks the hormonal and metabolic prison cell your moods may have been keeping you in. Your liberated spirit will fuel the progress you desire and deserve. Suddenly you are achieving more and helping others to do the same. All because of attitude. As trite as the phrase “Mind believes…body achieves” may appear, it’s totally true.

I kept it brief and said most of what I wanted to say. Literally, simply acknowledging the relationship between emotions, hormones, and metabolism can open doors that have seemed to be inexplicably closed. Thanks for joining me as always and I welcome your feedback and questions.

Share a comment or question!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: